Filipino children grow in numbers like rabbits. thanks
but no thanks to the activist stance of the Roman
Catholic church on pressuring the threatened
government not to promote artificial birth
control methods. Birth control pills, condoms,
others were given free during the authori-
tarian rule of then President Ferdinand Marcos.
By Antonio C. Abaya
Sionil Jose says that �we are poor because we have lost our ethical moorings, this in spite of those massive religious rallies of El Shaddai, those neo-gothic churches of the Iglesia ni Cristo sprouting all over the country, in spite of nearly 400 years of Catholic evangelization...�
�We are poor because we are not moral. Can this immorality as evidenced by widespread corruption be quantified? Yes, about P20 billion a year is lost, according to NGO estimates.
�We are poor because we have no sense of history, and therefore, no sense of nation. The nationalism that was preached to my generation by Claro M. Recto and Lorenzo Ta�ada was phony...
�We are poor because our elite from way back had no sense of nation � they collaborated with whoever ruled � the Spaniards, the Japanese, the Americans and, in recent times, Marcos. Our elite imbibed the values of the colonizer...�
Here I disagree with Sionil Jose. To explain an economic phenomenon like poverty, one must look for economic reasons, not moral or political or ideological ones. To put it simply and bluntly, we are poor because our economy did not and does not generate enough jobs for those who need and want to work. Why our economy did not do so and does not do so can best be explained by six economic reasons:
One. In the mid-1950s, our minimum wage law came into effect. When American firms started to move their manufacturing activities to the Far East in the 1960s, they put up most of their factories in Taiwan and Hong Kong, not in the Philippines, even though most Filipino workers could understand some English (most Chinese then could not), and even though Filipino managers were familiar with American business practices (while most Chinese then were not).
The compelling reason for choosing Taiwan and Hong Kong over the Philippines was: wages then were lower there, and there was no minimum wage law there either. So even though the Philippines enjoyed the second highest standard of living in Asia next to Japan up to the late 1960s, we began to lose that lead to Taiwan and Hong Kong in the 1970s.
Two. In the 1970s, South Korea, Taiwan, Hong Kong and Singapore deliberately geared their economies to the export of manufactured goods. In the 1980s, Malaysia, Thailand and Indonesia followed their lead. The growth of export industries created jobs, jobs, jobs, which in turn stimulated the growth of manufacturing industries for the domestic markets, which created more jobs, jobs, jobs. This propelled Singapore, South Korea, Malaysia, Thailand and Indonesia to overtake us in the 1980s.
The Philippines did not seriously pursue an export-oriented strategy until the 1990s, under President Ramos, but by that time the global marketplace had become over-crowded with the entry of the People�s Republic of China. In the 1970s, President Marcos tried to join the export race, but this was opposed by communist high priests Renato Constantino Sr., Edberto Villegas, Walden Bello and Horacio Morales and their acolyte Conrado de Quiroz, and was deliberately sabotaged by KMU communist labor militants.
In 1965, when East Asia was exporting only commodities, the resource-rich Philippines� total exports amounted to $769 million, while resource-poor South Korea and Taiwan exported only $175 million and $446 million, respectively.
In 2001, after 30 years of manufacturing-for-export, South Korea�s and Taiwan�s exports reached $159 billion and $122 billion, respectively, while the late-coming Philippines� totaled only $37 billion.
So in those 36 years, South Korea�s and Taiwan�s exports grew 908-fold and 276-fold, while ours grew only 48-fold. I leave it to others to calculate how many million jobs we lost by default for not pursuing more vigorously a manufacturing-for-export strategy. Three. Having been left behind by the export bus, we also missed the tourism bus. In 1991, the Philippines and Indonesia drew in the same number of foreign tourists: one million. In 2004, or 13 years later, the Philippines is still struggling to attract 2.5 million, while Indonesia is expected to draw in six million, despite the Bali bombing in October 2002. This year, Hong Kong, Singapore, Thailand and Malaysia are expected to attract 10 to 12 million tourists. Again, I leave it to others to calculate how many million jobs we have lost by default for being such an unattractive place to visit.
Several reasons account for our poor image, the most prominent being: political instability due to coup attempts by Gringo Honasan, kidnappings by the Abu Sayyaf, terrorism by Muslim secessionists, endless insurgency by the NPA. Take your pick.
Four. Having failed to develop a wide manufacturing base during the export boom of the �70s and �80s, the Philippines under President Ramos foolishly embraced free trade and globalization, even earlier and more enthusiastically than much more highly developed Taiwan and South Korea, opening the economy to the products of more industrialized countries, thus sealing the fate of our struggling domestic producers. No wonder an average of 3,500 Filipinos leave these shores every day for jobs abroad that they cannot find here.
Five. As ideologically committed as President Ramos was to free trade and globalization, President Arroyo maintains a bias against manufacturing, preferring to concentrate on agriculture, telecommunications and tourism (kuno). She does not buy the rule-of-thumb that I tried to sell to her: that a hectare of agricultural land, planted to rice or corn, cannot sustain one family for one year; while that hectare of agricultural land, if converted to a manufacturing zone, can sustain hundreds of families. And I thought my logic was unassailable.